In 2020, two record-breaking “megaflash” lightning incidents were observed from space, one with a distance of 768 kilometers (477 miles) and a length of 17.01 seconds. Such astounding heights for lightning world records necessitate incredibly dramatic storms, consisting of a large field of electrified clouds. When these conditions are combined with tiny discharges, lightning bolts can travel great distances, such as between Texas and Mississippi in this case. The World Meteorological Organization has certified both records (WMO).
The bolt, which occurred on April 29, 2020, broke a new record for the longest-reaching lightning distance, but it wasn’t the only surprise up 2020’s weather systems’ sleeve. The longest-ever lightning bolt was recorded zapping throughout Uruguay and northern Argentina on June 18, 2020, lasting an astonishing 17.1 seconds, shattering the previous record of 16.7 seconds set by a bolt in Argentina. The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society publishes details on both.
The deployment of satellite-mounted Geostationary Lightning Mappers (GLMs) in 2017 gave lightning records a boost, allowing for the first time continuous monitoring of intense electrical weather events across the western hemisphere. The GLMs allowed scientists to examine lightning bolt extent and duration across vast swaths of land since they were stationed in space, which provided a significantly higher vantage point than any terrestrial technology. In a statement, main author and review committee member Michael J. Peterson of the Space and Remote Sensing Group (ISR-2) of Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA, said, “Lightning is a surprisingly elusive and complex natural phenomenon for the influence that it has on our daily lives.”
“We’ve arrived at a point where we have excellent measurements of its numerous characteristics, allowing us to uncover unexpected new aspects of its behavior.” We may begin to grasp how these monster flashes arise and comprehend their disproportionate impact now that we have a thorough database of them.” As a result, distance and duration records nearly doubled between 2017 and 2019, with the winning zap stretching 709 kilometers, yet these new megaflashes beat even those marks.
For comparison, the new extent record is the distance between New York City and Columbus, Ohio in the United States, or London, England, and Hamburg, Germany in Germany. To put things in perspective, 17 seconds is roughly this long. Professor Randall Cerveny, WMO’s rapporteur for Weather and Climate Extremes, said in a statement, “These are remarkable records from single lightning flash incidents.” “Environmental extremes are living indicators of nature’s power, as well as scientific advancement in making such judgments.” Even higher extremes are expected to exist, and as lightning detection technology improves, we will be able to monitor them.”